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Pope Francis honored Cardinal Godfried Danneels (2nd from left) by letting him stand alongside the pope on the balcony on the night of his election on March 13, 2013.

(LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Joseph Strickland joined Elizabeth Yore and John-Henry Westen on a special Spy Wednesday edition of Faith & Reason, in which they discussed the laicization of a Belgian prelate once defended by the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the Copts’ reaction to Fiducia Supplicans, Cardinal Mario Grech’s statements on a potential female diaconate, and more.

Earlier this month, the Dicastery (formerly Congregation) for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) reexamined the case of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, a prelate who admitted to child abuse over a decade ago. The victim, Vangheluwe’s nephew, went to Danneels to tell him about the abuse, and Danneels was caught on tape telling the victim that he should “look to [his] own sins,” that his uncle would retire the following year, and that the victim should remain silent.

Danneels, a prominent member of the St. Gallen Mafia, appeared on the loggia with the newly elected Pope Francis in March 2013, at Francis’ request. Francis would later appoint Danneels to the two Synods on the Family. Upon reexamining Vangheluwe’s case, the DDF suggested that Pope Francis laicize him, which he did.

Yore, a child defense lawyer who has worked on cases in Belgium, noted that the Belgian Bishops’ Conference has repeatedly asked the Vatican to laicize Vangheluwe. She also speculated that the reason for the laicization could be connected to an upcoming trip to Belgium that Francis is expected to make.

“At long last, there’s justice,” Yore said, “but I think it’s come too late, certainly, and it should have been done a long time ago. Talk about a cut and dried case.”

Strickland, addressing the laicization, said the situation is “saddening” and “tragic” for those involved. He also notes that there is a tendency in the Church and the world to “ignore these sins,” with little distinction between the Church and state in how “these corrupt systems are operating.” For Strickland, however, the underlying issue is whether we truly believe in Jesus Christ, and that the betrayal of Judas was an evil.

Mentioning something that has come up in his prayer during Holy Week, Strickland said that the betrayal of Christ is “ongoing.” The situation “just described,” he said, is “one more betrayal of what Christ died to free us from – sin and death.”

“Instead, the leadership in the Vatican seems to be willing to ignore the sin, and ignore the mortal death, the devastation, the condemnation that comes from ignoring these sins,” Strickland lamented. He added that the greatest compassion one can have for Pope Francis and anyone else in the Church is to “bring the truth to bear” and invite them and those around him to “embrace the truth of Christ,” that truth being the same from century to century, and the more people acknowledge it, the better the world will be.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Mario Grech, one of the two cardinals in charge of the Synod on Synodality, has apparently contradicted Church teaching by saying that a female diaconate, along with a different “space” for women in the Church, “are a natural deepening of the Lord’s will.” He made the statement in an interview near meetings of the Swiss bishops. Grech also spoke of “equality,” “harmony,” and “unity” regarding the difficulties in the reactions to Fiducia Supplicans.

“This is a preemptive strike,” Yore asserted. To her, Grech’s statement is a “PR campaign” that is “laying the groundwork” for happenings at the Synod on Synodality in October. She also noted that the Synod is “going to discuss all these issues,” that a document will be issued following it, and that Grech said Francis wants to treat the Synod “differently” and wants to change the life of the Church and its relations with a changing society.

Yore likened the Synod to the German Synodal Way, which Cardinal Gerhard Müller maintained would not implement Church teaching but modern ideologies. Noting that Francis has appointed “radical women” who for years have called for a female diaconate, Yore said that people “need to be prepared that these changes are going to be promoted and imprinted on the Church.” “I think we need to be prepared to address this issue [and] to push back on this issue,” she said.

She further warned that those promoting women deacons will attempt to play with language the way they did with Fiducia Supplicans in an attempt to change Church teaching, adding that playing with language will always be followed by social engineering.

Strickland observed that the issue boils down to two “basic realities” – “the truth of Holy Orders” and “the distinct and complimentary roles of men and women in the life of the world and in the life of the Church.”

“All of this flies in the face of that,” he said.

He also observed the suggestion that there could be a “quasi-diaconate for women” is a denial of Christ’s revelation and a “real denigrating of the beautiful model and role of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” To Strickland, we are “losing touch” with Our Lord and Our Lady as we “move down this path,” as the idea that women need an equal place at the altar in order to be “esteemed” and “respected” as God esteems and respects them is contrary to what Christ said and did.

“Jesus Christ was free to choose whoever He wanted to be the first bishops and priests, and He chose men,” Strickland observed. Strickland further said that St. John Paul II “definitively” answered the issue of women’s ordination, though since people “don’t want the answer … they’re looking for ways to get around it.” He further observed that Christian groups that have allowed women in ministry find that they have not benefited as a result and “look to be disappearing into history if something drastic doesn’t happen.”

“The Catholic Church won’t disappear, but it can be greatly diminished and harmed by not listening to the truth,” Strickland warned.

Reacting to Strickland’s remarks, Yore said that the issue is also one of undermining Marian apparitions and Our Lady’s role in the Church, making it more like the “feminist world.” She further opined that the good thing about such crises is that we can educate ourselves about the faith.

In the midst of the conversation, Westen noted that the issue seems to have began when St. John Paul II allowed women to serve as altar girls and lectors, which, while not official orders, were conferred and formalized by Francis. Westen then asked Strickland what would stop women from being conferred what looks like the priesthood or the diaconate when they can serve as acolytes, lectors, and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, when the only man at the altar could be the priest or bishop and all are in liturgical vestments.

Strickland responded that when he was a parish priest, he himself had altar girls, since it was presented as “the norm.” He reiterated that boys and girls are different, and that what was seen in parishes was that more girls were interested in serving than boys. Returning to a point he made earlier, other Christian groups have had trouble getting men to join ministry because women have been quick to volunteer for it.

He also observed that people have told him a reason why they go to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) as opposed to the Novus Ordo is that their sons can serve the Mass, saying as a former vocations director that boys serving Mass actually helps foster vocations. He further said that he attempted to make distinct roles for women so he would not fall into trouble with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which would have told him he did not have the right to exclude women and girls from serving.

Responding more directly, however, Strickland said that Westen’s question shows that women serving at the altar “shows that for many years [there has been] a lack of real respect for the distinct roles of men and women in the liturgical life of the Church.” What he suggested is that people need to pay attention to the erosion of the truth without being condemnatory of anyone that is following what is now permitted, but to focus on what the rules are, what serving at the altar must remind us of, and to be engaged with what is going on at the altar according to our roles as men and women, laity and clerics.

For all this and more, tune in to this week’s episode of Faith & Reason, and have a happy Triduum and Easter.  

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